Pennsylvania and Maryland legislators lobby to rename Negro Mountain

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The name Negro Mountain --the moniker given to a 30-mile-long mountain ridge that stretches from Somerset County to Western Maryland -- has long been controversial.

"There have been numerous attempts to change that, and it never came to fruition," said Edward Callahan, district forester for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources at Forbes State Forest.

Yet state Rep. Rosita Youngblood, D-Philadelphia, is trying again.

Ms. Youngblood, who has lobbied unsuccessfully to change the mountain's name since 2008, plans to re-introduce a resolution calling for Gov. Tom Corbett to begin the process of renaming Negro Mountain, a move that is coinciding with a similar effort by a Maryland legislator.

"We're both hoping we can get it done this session," she said in a phone interview today.

Her resolution will call on Mr. Corbett to create a commission or take other executive action to rename the mountain and update all maps, brochures, plaques and signs.

Ms. Youngblood didn't know Pennsylvania had a Negro Mountain until 2007, when her granddaughter pointed it out to her on a map. She was surprised and dismayed by the name, she said.

Historical documents show the name Negro Mountain dates to the 1750s, Mr. Callahan said.

According to a U.S. Geological Survey database, the mountain was named for a brave servant of a pre-Revolutionary frontiersman who died in a battle against a group of Native Americans.

"Supposedly, it was a really good thing and a really honorable thing that they named the mountain after him," said Mr. Callahan, who did not know the slave's name.

Ms. Youngblood said her research shows that the man's name was Nemesis. It's his name that should be honored, not his skin color, Ms. Youngblood said.

"I think it's important that we be politically correct and recognize heroes," she said.

A proposal to change the name to Black Hero Mountain was made in 1992 to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, but it was rejected in 1994, with the board agreeing with local and state government agencies that were against changing the name.

Ms. Youngblood said she plans to speak with her counterparts in Somerset County about supporting her resolution.

For now, though, the mountain ridge is still officially Negro Mountain. Mr. Callahan, who said he realizes the name can make people uncomfortable and raise questions, said the local use maps he has designed instead refer to the mountain ridge by its highest point, which at 3,213 feet, also happens to be the highest point in Pennsylvania.

"It was easier just to say 'Mount Davis area,' " he said.

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Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707.This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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